Dining with Kids Near the National Mall
Visiting DC is one of the most memorable and quintessential American vacations. Starting with the Cherry Blossom Festival in early Spring and ending with the spectacular 4th of July fireworks display, the season is full of events, festivals and delicious dining options.
If at all possible, schedule your sightseeing on weekdays for lighter crowds. It can make experiencing the nation’s capital even more magical, and a huge bonus is that early dinners (before 6pm) provide access to some seriously yummy happy hour food menus that might as well be kids menus given their economical prices and smaller portions. Not to mention the wine specials!
The National Mall isn’t the kind of tourist area where you will stumble upon amazing restaurants with doors that open onto Constitution or Independence as you meander from one monument to the next. And you definitely don’t want to end up in a tourist trap! It’s best to have a plan for dining scheduled into your sightseeing route.
Lincoln Memorial to WWII Memorial – West End
It’s important to note that there are NO RESTAURANTS immediately on the west end — think Lincoln to WWII memorials and all the stops between (Reflecting Pool, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean Veterans Memorial). But there are a few options, starting with our favorite — a picnic.
Best Picnic Option: Devon & Blakely: With locations around the city, online ordering for pickup, and an opening time at 7am, grabbing your lunch items before starting your day of sightseeing is easy! In addition to endless sandwich and salad options and a menu that clearly shows gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian dishes, they offer “Lunch Boxes,” convenient for off premise lunches. They include a specialty sandwich, side salad, fruit and dessert for $15.15.
Food Trucks: There are typically a few refreshment trucks along Constitution and Independence Avenue serving hot dogs, pretzels and drinks.
Lincoln Retail Refreshments and Gifts: Serving up fast-food favorites like hamburgers, cheeseburgers, PB&J uncrustables, salads and fruit cups, this is a lifeline when a meal is needed, and quickly.
Near the White House
A piece of crispy, juicy fried chicken sandwiched between savory donuts is worthy of a stop if you’re near The White House. We also love Astro Chicken and Doughnuts’ family style 8-piece chicken menu option, accompanied by a large kimchi coleslaw and cheddar biscuits. If you have your heart set on a creme brulee doughnut, come early because they’re made fresh every morning and might sell out!
-outdoor seating only, no highchairs, gluten-free menu available
These melty, heavenly sandwiches are a sight to see on their own! From options topped with chorizo and salsa, to kimchi and roast beef, and even a build your own, there is a grilled cheese for everyone. Add a side of tater tots and your pipsqueaks will be ready for their next stop on your DC adventure.
-Booster seats, no high chairs, gluten-free menu available
Starting with a base (rice, wrap, salad or pita sandwich), diners can choose their favorite mediterranean meats like lamb meatballs, chicken or salmon kabob, and steak roti, then top off their meal with dips, slaws and sauces. If hummus, tatziki, feta and pickled onions strike your fancy, Roti is the place to go!
Live music and a dance floor make this spot fun for everyone. But the real star of the show is the food, a mix of American and Japanese fare. A dedicated kids menu with favorites like burgers, pizza and pasta are served with a choice of side (yay for salad and vegetables!) as well as a beverage. We didn’t tell you this, but the milkshakes here are some of our favorite in the entire city. Adults can make theirs boozy with a shot of a recommended liqueur. We vote Toasted Marshmallow with Cream de Cacao. *many options available gluten free. Reservations recommended.
-highchairs, changing table, kids menu, gluten free options
Chef Buben of Woodward Table added crayons, coloring sheets, and cookies for kids who finish their meals for one simple reason. He said, “make the parents happy by making the kids happy.” And that’s something we love to hear! While parents enjoy a seafood tower, cheese board and entrees ranging from lamb, salmon, pasta and other American fare, kiddos can feast on fried shrimp, grilled cheese, pizza and other favorites! Reservations recommended.
-highchairs, changing table, kids menu, outdoor seating, gluten free options available.
This is a true DC Institution. Literally neighboring The White House, you can’t get any closer. From the same restaurant group as The Hamilton above and sharing the same kids menu, favorites including burgers, pizza and pasta are served with a choice of side (yay for salad and vegetables!) as well as a beverage. Reservations recommended.
-highchairs, changing tables, kids menu, gluten free options available
Once one of our favorite date-night destinations, Founding Farmers has taken its place as one of our favorite family dinner spots. Their chicken and waffles are out of this world, as are their craft cocktails. The full menu includes chops, seafood and fresh fish, salads, burgers and more. While there’s no set kids menu, we love the baby cheeseburgers appetizer and full range of gourmet hotdogs for our pipsqueaks. Reservations recommended.
-highchairs, changing table, gluten free options available
If the Obamas ate there, you know it’s good! We couldn’t agree more with their description: An Icon of Washington, DC; the soul of the city. And it brings all the soul to the table, with low country favorites like fried chicken, peach cobbler, fried green tomatoes and perlau that could “compete with your Grandmama’s.” Children are accommodated from the main menu, with pipsqueak friendly items like cornmeal crusted catfish fingers and mac n’ cheese. Reservations recommended.
-highchairs, changing table
Sweet Home Café, housed in the National Museum of African American History and Culture, showcases the rich culture and history of the African American people with traditional, authentic offerings as well as present-day food traditions. On top of that, this is no typical museum cafeteria. Chef Jerome Grant was a 2019 James Beard Award Semifinalist for Best Chef: Mid-
-highchairs, changing tables
In the middle of summer when you’re making your way down The National Mall, the glorious air conditioning of this cafe is SO refreshing — and it’s right on The Mall, so there’s no walking far for an easy lunch. Located in the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, the restaurant serves an ever-changing selection of soups, salads, specialty entrées, burgers, signature sandwiches, and fresh pastries and desserts in a food-court environment.
-high chairs, changing tables
This sandwich, soup and salad spot hits the marks for delicious, fast, and super close to the National Mall. Order at the counter, where you’ll find the menu posted, and meats ready for carving and toppings ready for stacking. We loved the New Yorker (pastrami) and chicken caesar wrap…and the brownies!
Live music, and cafeteria-style ordering make this an easy and fun stop on your adventure. Our pipsqueaks love that they can see all of the sides along the hot bar and choose what they like. If fall-off-the-bone ribs make your mouth water, this is the place to stop. Kids combos offer a choice of ribs, chicken or brisket, one side, and cookie for $10. Reservations recommended.
This bright, festive restaurant serves authentic Spanish cuisine including tapas, paella, sangria and more. With foosball tables topped with glass at which to dine and other whimsical touches, this was the first of many Jaleo locations by Jose Andres, a James Beard award winning celebrity chef, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Our pipsqueaks ask to come back for chicken croquettas (fritters), serrano ham and manchego sandwich and mini hamburguesas. It’s the plethora of quesos, house-made chorizo and olive oil ice cream with grapefruit that top our adult list. Reservations recommended.
-high chairs, changing tables
Another Jose Andres hot spot, Oyamel serves up creative Mexican tapas and street food, as well as a fun list of cocktails. The lunch menu offers Almuerzo Rapido (quick lunch) for $20 and includes a choice of 2 small plate and taco. For pipsqueaks, try the Pollo a la parrilla con aguacate taco (chicken and guac) and the Quesadilla de chicharrones (pork belly quesadilla). Reservations recommended.
Capitol and Supreme Court
Top Chef contestant, Spike Mendelsohn, founded this pizza spot in Capitol Hill in 2010, and over the last decade it has become an iconic part of the DC food scene. The pizzas are served by the slice or the pie, and we love the $10 lunch specials — 2 slices and a drink, or a slice with a salad and a drink. The Capitol Supreme is our vote!
-highchairs, outdoor seating
Another Spike Mendelsohn favorite, this burger joint brings farm to table fare to Capitol Hill. Just a block from the Library of Congress, handcrafted burgers are topped with farm-fresh ruby-red tomatoes, thinly sliced onion, crisp lettuce and pickles, served on a sweet, buttery soft, freshly baked Pennsylvania dutch bun with a loving spoonful of Good Stuff Sauce or “Shun The Bun” – have it lettuce wrapped. Get The Lunch Bag – cheeseburger, fries and soda, for $12.50! And don’t forget a Milky Way Malt!
-high chairs, outdoor seating
Superfood salads and bowls make the Sweetgreen menu refreshing and simple to navigate. Our pipsqueaks devour the Chicken Pesto Parm bowl while I eye the Spicy Thai Salad. A selection of housemade beverages, think strawberry mint, adds a sweet touch to the meal.
Sonoma’s new American menu showcases only the freshest local ingredients in their small and large plates. Choose from a selcection of cheese and charcuterie, pizzas and sandwiches, pastas and chops. We love to grab a table outside and watch the hustle and bustle of Capitol Hill. Reservations recommended.
-high chairs, outdoor seating
James Beard Award winner Jeffrey Buben opened this lovely french bistro in 1998. Now known as “where Capitol Hill goes to dine,” you’ll find class dishes like beef bourguignon and Tuna Salade Niçoise. Pipsqueak favorites include steak frites and gratin of macaroni with gruyère. Reservations recommended.
Helmed by Executive Chef Douglas Alexander, Art and Soul exudes true Southern warmth and hospitality. Playful regional elements such as hand-painted farm signs and traditional folk art are also used throughout the space in honor of the D.C. restaurant’s regional influences. In warmer weather, an expansive front patio provides an al fresco dining option with a fire-pit and grill. Kids menu items include mac ‘n’cheese, chicken croquettes grilled and grilled cheese sandwich. Reservations Recommended.
-high chairs, outdoor seating, verbal kids menu